Thursday, September 27, 2012

Stargate Atlantis--"The Return, Part I"

"The Return, Part I” wears two significant hats. One, it serves as the midseason finale for the third season. As such, it has to set up an exciting cliffhanger to compel the audience to come back for more. Two, if you count the pilot as two episodes, it is the halfway point for the entire series. Reaching the halfway point already does not say much other than we are rolling right along with these reviews. More relevant is the special guest stars, emotional moments, and a tense cliffhanger that make “The Return, Part I” one of the best episodes this season.

Our heroes are finally ready to test the McKay-Carter Intergalactic Gate Bridge which combines 34 stargates into a long chain which will cut travel from Atlantis to earth down to thirty minutes. While conducting the successful test, Daedalus encounters an Ancient with which they make contact. The Lanteans on board make their return to Atlantis, then promptly give our heroes 48 hours to leave. Only Jack, who has shown up as the representative for Earth, and Woolsey, who will be the International Oversight Committee ambassador, will remain.

Even though I know the departure will not be permanent, I still feel the air of sadness as our heroes are forced to leave Atlantis, splitting up under the likelihood many will never see each other, much less work together, again. It should not be a big secret to anyone who has read my reviews, but I am more much emotionally attached to Stargate SG-1. I am quite surprised our heroes splitting up feels like such a loss.

What really nails it is how the characters appear lost without each other. Sheppard leads an SG team, but finds it boring. Rodney is at Area 51. He amits in a phone call he misses Sheppard, but Sheppard hangs up rather than admit he feels the same way about Rodney. Beckett becomes the SGC doctor, which seems to suit him fine, but he becomes the one to pull Weir out of her hermitage by coaxing her to come to dinner with the rest of the main cast.

There is something interesting I have noticed about Torri Higginson’s portrayal of Weir in moments when she is suffering negative emotions. Weir tucks her knees under her chin and then locks her arms around her legs. It is a defensive, fetal position--a psychological method of protecting herself. The key point about the way she sits while under stress is that she has only done it out of uniform. She has always been in civilian clothes and once a hospital gown. Weir will sit that way in front of all sorts of different people she ought to want to project strength towards, so I doubt she avoids it while wearing her uniform in order to appear strong. Rather, the uniform provides her with the strength to deal with problems stoically. The dependency on her uniform might explain why she feels so weak without it here. It my even explain why she has shifted from a pacifist to a combat ready decision maker since becoming head of the Atlantis expedition.

The reunion dinner is spoile by news the Asurans have attacked Atlantis. Since Rodney rewrote their programming in the last encounter, the prohibition against harming Ancients is gone. Landry wants to know the best way to nuke the city before the Asurans decide to attack Earth, but our heroes decide to go rogue, reunite in Pegasus with Ronon and Teyla, and execute a plot to rewrite the Asuran programming again, thereby saving Atlantis while rescuing jack and Woolsey. Thus we have the to be continued in order to see if our heroes can pull out that off. Oh, and the Genii attempt to recruit ronon and Teyla, so I assume they will show up as reinforcements next episode.

“The Return, Part I” is really good for its personal touches and exciting cliffhanger. The return of the Ancients and the Asurans is done so quickly and in the background, the audience hardly has time to absorb it all. I suppose that is fortunate, since the asurans choosing a time shortly after the Ancients move back in to attack is a convenient plot point. Unless there is something else about it revealed in part two. I feel pangs of sorrow at our heroes got split up and a h8ll yeah notion when they all unquestionably decide to go rogue and save Atlantis. I am anxious to find out how they pull it off. The job of the first part of a multipart episode is to do just that, so mission accomplished. I rate “The Return, Part I’ as just behind “Sateda” as the best of the season so far.

Oh, and yes--Weir becomes more assertive when she dons a black ops military uniform. I tell you, she becomes a new person in uniform. It gives her the backbone to make tough decisions.

Rating: **** (out of 5)

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